The beginner’s guide to running: 7 steps to finding your feet
Make the most of summer’s sunny mornings and light evenings to do something great for your wellbeing – we have all the tips, tricks and tech you need to get started
Running: it’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. If you haven’t run since your last PE lesson, it can also be a little daunting. So why not use these bright, sunny mornings and long, light evenings as motivation to give it a try? We have all the kit – plus expert advice – to help you get started.
Save the date
First off: sign up for a race. It might sound scary, but it’ll keep you motivated and help you stick to your training plan. If you’re a complete beginner, you should be able to run a 5k after seven to nine weeks.
If you fancy trying something a bit different, why not give an inflatable 5k obstacle run a go? Or soak up a bit of culture on the guided Great Fire of London running tour – you can run the whole thing, or go for a gentle walk/run. If you’ve got your sights set on a marathon, allow three to five months of training time. The Loch Ness marathon, described as one of the most stunning marathons in the world, takes place in October.
Make a plan
Once your race date is in the diary, it’s time to block out those training sessions. If you’re starting from scratch, the NHS suggests three sessions a week, using a walk/run strategy. Warm up with a brisk five minute walk, then alternate one minute of running with one-and-a-half minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Doable, right? Gradually increase the time you spend running and reduce the time you spend walking until you can run for 30 minutes without stopping.
Running with a friend, partner or group can help you stay on track – literally. People who exercise with someone else train more often and work harder than those who go it alone. If you don’t have a workout buddy, why not join a running group? Park Run organise free 5km runs for all abilities throughout the country every Saturday at 9am. It’s a great way to start the weekend.
Get kitted out
The right kit is key. Look for lightweight, breathable wicking fabrics (this means they’ll wick the sweat away from your skin as you run). Double-layer shorts will keep you cool, while running tights and capris offer extra support. Add a decent sports bra and a zero-chafe tank top or T-shirt and you’re good to go. Chilly morning? Throw on a wicking workout hoodie.
When it comes to running shoes, there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there. But according to biomechanics expert Benno Nigg, the secret to picking the perfect pair is actually pretty simple: listen to your body and choose the ones you feel most comfortable in. Asics Patriot 11 running shoes are designed for beginners, and filled with structured cushioning for a bouncy feel. Team with strategically cushioned and vented running socks to keep chafing and clammy feet at bay.
Pick your playlist
Listening to music while you run can boost your endurance by up to 15%. If you want to run harder and faster, go for tracks that have about 145 beats per minute. Think Gimme Some Lovin’ by The Blues Brothers (144 BPM) and Change Your Mind by The Killers (147 BPM).
Made for pavement-pounding music lovers, the latest wireless sports headphones are designed to withstand rain and sweat and stay put under all conditions. Just pop them in and flick your Bluetooth on. Stay hands-free by stashing your smartphone in a handy arm pocket.
Training alone? Then it’s well worth visiting the App store. The free Couch to 5K app will guide beginner runners through their first nine weeks. MapMyRun will help you find new routes and track performance, while RockMyRun serves up DJ-curated playlists that adjust to your step cadence or heart rate.
Take your training one step further with a fitness tracker or smart watch. Fitbit Versa has a built-in heart rate tracker and uses Connected GPS to show you your pace, distance and route in real time. The Apple Watch Series 4 comes with built-in GPS and lets you stream songs straight to your wrist. Pick the GPS and Cellular option and you can even use your watch to make calls.
Rest and recover
If you want to become a better runner, R&R is as crucial as, well, actually running. Use a foam roller before and after each run to stop aches and pains and boost performance later on. Aim to roll your calves, quads, glutes and TFL (outside hip muscle) for 30 seconds each. And have a rest day in-between runs to give your muscles a chance to recover.
Listen to your body – if your muscles are screaming that it’s time to rest, rest. But try to make the majority of your rest days active recovery days. Cross-training, which means building activities like strength training, yoga and Pilates into your training schedule, can actually make you a better runner. Weight training exercises like squats and deadlifts strengthen the glute and hip muscles, which guards against injury and boosts power and speed. Pilates, which builds core strength, is also a tried-and-tested speed enhancer. As for yoga? That releases the tightness that tends to build up in the hamstrings, quads and hip flexors. On your marks...
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Running-ready gear to help you on your way
We recommend you consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.